Making the best use of internationalisation, including developing specific internationalisation strategies and activities that bring maximum benefit to institutions and systems, has become a key challenge for higher education leaders and policy makers, the world over. The International Association of Universities (IAU) has just launched the report of their 4th Global Survey, conducted in 2013, to help shed light on the best internationalisation strategies for higher education institutions.
Internationalisation policy makers need to have an institutional, as well as regional, and global understanding of the following: What are the benefits of internationalisation, and what are the risks? What are the obstacles to advancing the process? What are the key activities being prioritised within strategies? What support structures are in place? What internationalisation activities are being funded in particular and where does this funding come from? What are the priority regions for internationalisation? What are the goals for student mobility, and how do these goals compare with reality? How have these trends changed over time? How do they compare by geographic region?
A global survey
To provide answers to these and other questions, as well as advancing knowledge and understanding of the process of internationalisation to best equip higher education leaders to develop the most effective internationalisation strategies, in 2013 IAU undertook a global survey on internationalisation of higher education. This 4th edition of the global survey drew sponsorship from the EAIE, as well as the European Commission, British Council and NAFSA: Association of International Educators. Sent electronically to the Head of institution and/or Head of international relations of higher education institutions around the world, the IAU received completed questionnaires from 1336 higher education institutions in 131 different countries. Here are some of the key aggregate/global level findings.
Policy, benefits, drivers
More than half of respondent institutions reported that they had a policy for internationalisation and approximately a further 25% stated that one was in preparation. The top ranked expected benefit in pursuing internationalisation was noted as increasing the international awareness of students. This is in line with the results of the previous two IAU Global Surveys conducted in 2005 and 2009. The Head of institution is seen as the most important internal driver of the process, whilst the top ranked external driver is government (national/state/municipal) policy.
Risks and obstacles
Respondents perceived the most significant institutional risk of pursuing internationalisation was the fact that international education priorities were reserved only for those students with financial resources, whilst the most significant societal risk was seen to be growing commercialisation of higher education. The survey also included questions regarding perceived obstacles to advancing internationalisation. Here, lack of funding, both internally and externally, was seen as the most significant obstacle.
Value, activities and funding
The survey results showed that academic goals are a central feature of institutional internationalisation efforts. Once again, outgoing mobility opportunities for students and international research collaboration were noted as the highest priority internationalisation activities within respondent institutions. And over 50% of respondents noted that funding for internationalisation came from the general institutional budget.
To order your copy of Internationalization of Higher Education: Growing expectations, fundamental values – IAU 4th Global Survey, which includes a complimentary electronic copy of the survey’s executive summary, please download and return the order form to IAU: firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Ross Hudson, IAU, France
Don’t forget that if you’re working within the field of international higher education in Europe you can take part in the EAIE’s own internationalisation survey, The EAIE Barometer: Internationalisation in Europe, designed to map the extent of internationalisation of higher education across Europe from a practitioner perspective.
IAU survey launch, Amsterdam, April 2014.